Skip to main content

Lone Frank – Four Way Interview

Lone Frank is the author of The Neurotourist: Postcards from the edge of brain science. She holds a PhD in neurobiology and was previously a research scientist in the biotechnology industry. An award winning science journalist, she has written for many top publications. She lives in Copenhagen. Her latest book is My Beautiful Genome.
Why science?
I was always fascinated by knowing about and understanding the world, especially the living world. Then, in high school I was completely bowled by the first taste of the mysteries of the nervous system. I knew right then that I wanted to work with brains and went through university with that goal in mind. Having gotten my Ph.D. by way of killing rats and slicing up their brains for three years, the specialisation of a research career would stand in the way of seeing the bigger picture. So I quit practical research and went into science communication in order to concern myself with that more general understanding which was the original fascination.
Why this book?
What most interests me about science is how it affects our culture and way of thinking. And right now, what is about to change our thinking about our selves is the development in genetics. You could call it the genetic revolution’s second wave. It is biology’s parallel to the PC revolution. Just like computers changed our lives when they made the transition from expert tool to cheap every day commodity, consumer genetics will influence us by becoming a ubiquitous factor. Within a foreseeable future we will all routinely handle personal genetic information. It will not only shape personal health care but give us radically new in-sight into the basis for our mental habitus – personality, IQ, temperament etc. I think this will cause a cultural shift by ushering in a much more biological view of who we are. By sharing my personal journey into consumer genetics, I hope to open this wondrous new world to those who think genetics is academic and abstract. From now on, genetics is all about you.
What’s next?
There is much talk of ‘dark matter’ in the genome and ‘missing heritability’. I believe the coming years bringing massive whole genome sequencing of humans from all ethnic groups will throw light on the mysteries of how certain combinations of genetic variants and environmental factors together result in various phenotypes. My bet is there will be big surprises, some perhaps exploding our ideas of how heritability works – it will be thrilling to follow the discoveries.
What’s exciting you at the moment?
I find it really fascinating to watch how the world map of science and research is in flux. Especially Asian countries like Singapore, South Korea and certainly India and China are getting into the game big time and the question is whether or how this will affect the priorities and directions of research in the future.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Lost in Math - Sabine Hossenfelder *****

One of my favourite illustrations from a science title was in Fred Hoyle's book on his quasi-steady state theory. It shows a large flock of geese all following each other, which he likened to the state of theoretical physics. In the very readable Lost in Math, physicist Sabine Hossenfelder exposes the way that in certain areas of physics, this is all too realistic a picture. (Hossenfelder gives Hoyle's cosmological theory short shrift, incidentally, though, to be fair, it wasn't given anywhere near as many opportunities to be patched up to match observations as the current version of big bang with inflation.)

Lost in Math is a very powerful analysis of what has gone wrong in the way that some aspects of physics are undertaken. Until the twentieth century, scientists made observations and experiments and theoreticians looked for theories which explained them, which could then be tested against further experiments and observations. Now, particularly in particle physics, it…

Gravity! - Pierre Binétruy ****

I had to really restrain myself from adopting the approach taken by The Register in referring to Yahoo! by putting an exclamation mark after every word in the text when faced with reviewing Gravity! One thing to be said about the punctuation, though, is it makes it easier to search for amongst a whole lot of books on gravity and gravitational waves (the subtitle is 'the quest for gravitational waves') since their discovery in 2015.

Despite the subtitle, Pierre Binétruy gives us far more - in fact, gravitational waves don't come into it until page 160, which makes it really more of a book about gravity with a bit on gravitational waves tacked on than a true exploration of the quest. 

However, those early pages aren't wasted - Binétruy gives us plenty of detail on all kinds of background, for example plunging in to tell us about element synthesis, something you wouldn't expect in a book on gravitational waves. I also really liked a little section on experiments you can…

Brain Based Enterprises - Peter Cook ****

A quick flag on this one: it's a management/business book, and the four star rating is with that in mind. Brain Based Enterprises does contain a surprising amount of science, considering this, which is why it's here, but don't expect it to be like a four star pure science book.

This is an eclectic attack on the status quo of our ideas about business. Peter Cook suggest that much of current business simply isn't oriented to the realities of a modern, technological world, and that we need to handle things very differently in a knowledge-based economy.

The book is divided into three sections. For me, the most interesting was the first 'brainy people' part, as my own business doesn't have teams and such - but for those who do there are also 'brainy teams' and 'brainy enterprises' sections. Cook stirs together a heady mix of science - from psychology to economics - music (a passion of his and a significant part of the way he works) and business the…